A bunion is a bump on the side of the big toe joint. It forms when bones in the front part of the foot move out of place. If this gets worse, the big toe moves toward the second toe. Painful bunions are one of the more common conditions treated by podiatrists.

Causes and symptoms

Bunions are caused by abnormal foot structure and function, which overly stress the metatarsal bone. This causes the soft tissues and ligaments around the big toe joint to stretch. Wearing shoes with a pointed toe box can cause bunions or make them worse.

Sometimes corns develop between the first and second toes. Occasionally the joint will swell and develop a sac of fluid over the bunion called a bursa. This is designed to protect and cushion the bone. But if it becomes severely inflamed, this is called bursitis.

The most common symptom associated with bunions is pain on the side of the foot.


Non-surgical treatment includes:

  • Wearing shoes with a roomier toe box and made of soft material 
  • Padding the area around the bunion 
  • Wearing prescription shoe inserts (orthotics) to help control abnormal positioning of the foot

If these steps don’t reduce pain, surgery may be needed.

Options include:

  • Realigning the bones in the foot to a more normal position 
  • Removing the swollen tissue around the big toe joint 
  • Joining the bones of the affected joint  

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